Chapter 2. Post War Planning and Motorways

Volume 1 Part 1
Brief résumé of Chapter 2:
Post War Planning and Motorways

Sir Frederick Cook, KCB, MICE, FSI, MC, DSO
formerly Chief Highway Engineer, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of WarTransport,
Partner, Howard Humphreys and Sons,
and Vice President, Institution of Civil Engineers
Frederick Cook (1912)

Chapter 2 Frederick Cook (1875-1947) become an Engineering Inspector at the Ministry of Transport in 1920. He rose rapidly to Divisional Road Engineer, Midland Division in 1921, Deputy Chief Engineer, Roads, in 1929 and Chief Highway Engineer in 1935. He was knighted early in 1942 for his contributions to highway policy - the greatest of which persuaded Cabinet to build motorways in principle.

His most important report on the value of motorways was written after he had retired in April 1942. The Cabinet knew he had been retained to write it at Lord Leathers’ instance, although it was well into July 1943 before Leathers, as Minister of War Transport, released it for Cabinet Committee scrutiny. The PRO file CAB117/266 shows Cook was not alone in contributing to the case put to the War Cabinet's Committees, for Lockwood's motorway plan "Report on Highway Development in the immediate Post War Years", published on 30th June 1943, was also sent in August 1943 to the War Cabinet Reconstruction Policy Committee as it sought to formulate its own response to Sir Frederick Cook's paper. Cook's presentation was thus just part of a response to the wider transport brief formulated by Arthur Greenwood and William Jowitt, with recorded help from Sir John Reith, Ernest Bevin, Hugh Beaver and Clem Atlee from August 1941 onwards. The influence and quality of the technical advice from the ICE which Beaver procured for Cook in 1942 reveals too the work done by Alexander Gibb for the Institution under the auspices of its Post War National Development Committee formed in 1940 and chaired by Sir Clement Hindley. Its special panel reported on Roads, Road Bridges and Tunnels on 9th February 1942.

Lord Justice Scott's Committee on Land Utilisation in Rural Areas reported in 1942 (Cmnd. 6378). It helped set a political climate favourable to such land use and strategic planning issues. Cook used data from it for a map within his own report. Leathers offered further comments to the War Cabinet Secretariat on 20th July 1943, writing to the Reconstruction Priorities Committee about the brief given him by Cook, that:

"In a report of exceptional interest, which is attached as Appendix II to this memorandum, Sir F. Cook (until lately Chief Engineer in my Department) discusses the problem of building motorways to be reserved exclusively for fast moving traffic and the extent to which this type of construction is justified by British conditions. In my view the conclusions reached are sound and strike a right balance between providing progressively for our reasonable needs and launching out on the scale advocated by some enthusiasts who are perhaps unduly influenced by continental analogies.

An early settlement of the government's attitude on this matter is very desirable. I should like authority to announce that, while I do not propose to embark on a widespread system of motorways, I am in favour of the construction of substantial lengths of road of this type where engineering and traffic considerations make them preferable to extensive adaptations of existing routes. The convenience of traffic, the proper development of our transport system as a whole, and sound principles of town and country planning, would guide the decision in each case, and due regard would be paid to cost and amenity."

Chapter 2 comprises transcripts of Sir Frederick Cook's reports of 14th August 1942 and 10th September 1942 based on copies in the ICE and CAB 117/266.